MNS to join NDA? Raj Thackeray, son in Delhi to meet Amit Shah

Raj Thackeray had campaigned for Congress-NCP candidates in the 2019 LS polls

PTI05_01_2022_000312B Raj Thackeray

After the Shiv Sena (Shinde) faction and NCP, another political party in Maharashtra may soon join hands with the BJP-led NDA. Reports are that Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray may ally with the BJP-led front for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Raj Thackeray and son Amit arrived in Delhi on Monday evening and may meet senior BJP leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday morning. If both parties could reach a consensus, Raj may announce the pact on Tuesday itself, said reports. 

The MNS had been holding talks with the BJP state leadership for some time, including with Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis and state BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule, but was yet to lock the deal. 

On whether the MNS would join the Mahayuti alliance, Fadnavis told reporters on Monday that he "cannot say anything about it officially." 

Thackeray too has been mum about the pact, stating that his party will decide its strategy for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Raj founded MNS after splitting from the undivided Shiv Sena founded by his uncle Bal Thackeray in 2005.  

Last month, MNS leaders Nitin Sardesai, Bala Nandgaonkar and Sandeep Deshpande met Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. Sardesai had then termed the visit a courtesy call, though they did discuss political issues. The BJP too had been mum about any alliance.  

Though the MNS has backed the BJP-led alliance, including in Rajya Sabha and legislative council polls, in 2022, the BJP has been wary of joining hands with MNS due to its anti-North Indian migrant stance.

The MNS had also shown mixed signals to alliances with NDA over the last decade. While it supported Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial candidature in 2014, the party fielded candidates against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition in 2014.

Though it upheld a pro-Hindutva stance, the MNS, in 2019, had campaigned for the Congress-NCP to defeat the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine.  

However, BJP sources said the saffron party believes that having MNS in its fold would benefit the alliance in Maharastra as Raj Thackeray's party can make inroads in Marathi strongholds, thereby nullifying the Uddhav Thackeray effect. However, the MNS does not have a single MLA or MP across Maharashtra as the party candidates performed disastrously during the 2017 civic election as well as the 2019 State and General elections. 

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